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TDWP: On a Train

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TDWP: On a Train pt. 1

Andy sat on the left aisle, by the window, allowing herself to settle in to the familiar comfort and rhythm of the train. The majority of her belongings were in a battered green pack, which was almost as scruffy as herself, though she did have some other items sequestered about her person. She secured her pack by pushing her leg through one of the arm loops, the use of several mysterious techniques and by making sure it was as tucked against a wall as she could manage. She rarely slept on the overnight trips, except when she managed to score a berth with a door she could lock. It wasn't that she was paranoid. It was that she traveled alone.

Mostly.

Thank goodness for wireless Internet. She found much of her entertainment online; ebooks, games and other things. She always made sure to download at least one new book before a longer trip and she bought at least one paperback; just in case. When she finished, she usually left the paperback books somewhere to be discovered. That way she did not have to carry them around.

Over the course of her travels she'd befriended many people. Friendliness always remained one of her charms, and her social skills had been honed to a fine art as she had come into her own. She enjoyed many companions, some more short-term than others, but all usually interesting, through her journeys. However, she enjoyed the private, more quiet, activities of her life just as much.

After an incident with at the Mirror, one involving the use of epithets and fisticuffs and bruised egos, Andy had found herself with a lot of time on her hands and choices to make. One of those choices had been to go back to Paris, because she'd always felt a little unfinished afterwards; as if a piece of herself had gone missing. It wasn't exactly restored upon arrival, but she enjoyed her time there. After visiting the city of love, she'd wandered France, writing as she felt like it. She would send the better ones along for publishing, usually under an adopted pen name, which she'd taken up for her journey. Her checks, some substantial, were sent to an accountant, who banked and built her fiances. She drew a stipend for herself, only occasionally splurging and going over the budget she had set.

Mostly, as she traveled, she simply just enjoyed the scenery and the experience. She'd discovered many hidden treasures and a few well known ones. The sense of something incomplete never quite left her, but there came a point when she was ready to move on and she headed south for awhile, toward warmer, sunnier climates. She gained an all over tan that carameled her skin a few shades and lightened her hair with hints of russet while visiting beaches. Then, satisfied with the sun and fun, she went other places, wherever she felt like.

As promised by her high school teacher, Spanish was a handy language. Her linguistic skills grew and flourished as she traveled in all directions, over several continents. She became a very competent polyglot and gained a mysterious, but fluid accent, one that made her sound foreign to American ears, but also "not quite from here," to other ears. Most often, strangers would think she was either from a different section of the country she might be in or simply from a neighboring town.

Because everyone took holidays, she learned to pass as traveling native, finding a kind of secret delight in helping flustered tourists along the way; if she happened to know an area well enough. Or joining in the discreet eye-rolls if they were too obnoxious.

Andy heard, rather than saw, the latest tourist drama, which was happening somewhere behind her. She tried to focus on her book, but the rising tones of clipped desperation and bad application of the local tongue interrupted her. Finally there was a cry of, "Does anyone here know English! All we need is hot coffee! Surely there is some, somewhere on this train."

The brunette, lanky, but long since past any coltishness, tried to ignore the rumble of incipient helpfulness which was rising and threatening to also disturb her concentration. A porter, she knew, probably could handle the situation. They usually spoke enough English or other languages, to compensate for any lack on their passengers part.

An attractive woman passed her, dressed in fashionable business attire and muttering to herself. "Maybe I could just jump off the train. Sure it's moving, but my boss is going to kill me anyway."

Andy's lips twitched in amused sympathy. She folded her book closed. She sat up slightly, looking back and then forward, trying to find someone else who might be helpful.

No.

It was up to her then, to rescue fair damsel from demise.

Part of her consideration was a little predatory. The woman had come from a part of the train where the berths were located. Andy was not entirely above using her abilities if it meant stepping up a rank in the travel hierarchy.

She stood and spoke slowly, as if she needed to remember the words. "Perhaps I might be of assistance."

The woman whirled, and looked back at Andy, a cloud of desperation in her eyes. "Oh thank god!"

They two stood before one of the train's dining car, serving bars. The man kept sending Andy an are you serious look. The writer chose to play the whole thing straight, interpreting as exactly as she could the basically simple, but obviously pressing requests of the assistant.

"Tell him, it has to be hot. I mean hot hot. Like blister the tongue hot."

Andy told him. He tried again, "We have a policy that is in place to safeguard the passengers. This is a train. Spilled coffee is very dangerous." He said this in perfect English, without raising his voice, though this was the third time he'd said it.

The assistant grew more agitated. "You don't understand. My boss has very specific desires. I'm not even sure she has any taste-buds left, but she insists on hot. On very, very..."

"Center of the sun hot?" Andy quipped, remembering her own demanding boss from a couple of years ago.

The assistant's hands emphasized her expression of, at last someone understands. "Yes!"

Andy deliberately placed her hand at the woman's back, testing her receptivity to touch. She wasn't shrugged away. In fact, the woman leaned against her hand. Interesting. Her inner prowler smiled hungrily; perhaps a berth and more. "Perhaps you will let me see to this. You might go sit there?" She indicated a seat at one of the empty tables.

"I don't know..." The woman looked longingly in the direction. She had obviously had a long day.

"It will be but a moment and your need will be met." Andy's sultry tone provoked a blush, but the assistant finally nodded and then, somewhat reluctantly, paced away and sat down.

Andy turned to the man, smiled and then said in his language, "Here is what you need to do." By the time she was done describing exact temperature, other details and chatting a bit, she had a friend. In short order she had a capped cup, large, with a variety of packets to flavor the coffee, however it might be needed for the assistant's purposes, all packed into a neat little tray. She paid for the effort, making sure to leave a tip, and then walked to the assistant.

"I will carry. You lead the way." The assistant looked the pack in Andy's other hand. The brunette said, sternly, "Don't argue. The coffee will chill."

"Grow cold."

"Yes. Exactly."

The assistant said, "Oh!" Then she stood and began rapidly moving, back to the part of the train where she'd come from. Andy enjoyed the view, walking at a more sensible pace. After all, the coffee was hot; as was the assistant.

They went down the line, passed through several other cars, and even passed some berths, until they arrived at the classier accommodations. Even then, they continued on, wandering though another dining car, where Andy was sure the woman should have been able to get coffee, and past another set of overnight spaces. They arrived at a door marking yet another space between cars and the woman stopped abruptly and turned.

"Okay. I think you probably better give me that. It's..." she paused and gave Andy a sheepish half-smile. "Safer."

The brunette couldn't resist. She leaned in a little, smiling toothily. "Are you sure about that?"

The other woman's eyes widened as her blush deepened, but her smile lengthened. She grasped the handle of the coffee carrier, letting her fingers brush with Andy's.

The door swished open. A male voice, slightly frantic, said, "There you are! What's taking so long. I finally convinced her to take five..." The words drifted off and the tone shifted. "... six ... away..."

"Nigel!" the assistant exclaimed, as if she'd been caught doing something. She stammered, "I got the coffee." Then, as if experiencing a moment brilliance, she paused and gripped Andy at the shoulder and shoved her around so he could see more clearly. "And an interpreter. Her English is very good."

"An... interpreter."

"Yes. She saved me with..." The assistant lifted the coffee carrier as evidence.

"I see." The editor stepped back a little, peered at the woman in question and then at the assistant. He folded his arms over his chest and then flicked a hand back at the other door in a directional motion. "Take the coffee in before our esteemed editor starts lopping off heads. It's getting dire in there."

The assistant abruptly let go of Andy and scurried past Nigel, who was pressing an index finger against his lips as his eyes raked up and down the curvy brunette, who was starting to back away at the same time. He noted that while the clothes were faded and scuffed, they were also classic and there was a definite sense of style; a traveler chic of sorts. "Still a four, I see."

He snagged her by a sleeve, before she could escape, and began to tug her forward. "Nope. No running away, Six. You're found. And trust me, people have been looking. That said, if I must suffer, so must you. I know you don't work for us any more. But this isn't about work. This is about need and survival." He led her by the cuff towards the door that the assistant had just gone through, even as he was answering every possible stymieing response she might pose. Then he dropped his ace. "Six, if you really can interpret, and as you value our friendship, help me out here. We're desperate."

They stopped, just inside the compartment. Nigel pointed, directing Andy's attention. "I will keep Miranda busy, since we both know what we know. But you have to do something about him. He barely speaks English, won't follow directions and is behaving like a prima-dona. Which is fine, because he has a beautiful face and perfect body and he was hired for a reason. But you see them. Those porters are all volunteers, and were only supposed to be here for twenty minutes. You've been wondering where they all were, right? We'll they were supposed to be a part of one scene. One. Which hasn't been shot right yet, because of him. Plus, they seem to speak about as much English as he does."

The brunette looked at Nigel as if he were out of his mind. The artist's hand wrapped around Andy's arm gently. "Help us Obi Wan Six. You're our only hope."

Andy cast a quick glance around, and didn't spot her ex-employer.

"She's in the back for the moment, cooling off, so to speak. Won't see you, if you hurry." Then Nigel thought a moment. "If you think you can do this?"

Andy took a deep, calming breath and straightened. "What do you need me to explain?"

Nigel's brows arched at the silky accent. "Wow. That accent. No wonder Theresa was blushing."

"No." Andy's smile was just as sensuous. "That was something else."

Nigel tugged his collar and grinned. "Right. Well, use that power for good and save the shoot, Six, and I'll buy you dinner." He reached for her pack. "Let me take that..." And found he couldn't pull it from her grasp. "Andy?"

She held the strap tightly, saw his puzzlement. "It has my worldly goods, Nigel."

He blinked, then he said, "I promise to guard it with my life. Or someone else's. You'll get it back. Intact."

Andy offered a half chuckle, then in an act of trust that she would rarely give to anyone else, she let the pack go into his hands. "Now. What do you want me to tell his majesty?"

Nigel expected the pack to be heavier, but his expression had lightened too much for his sudden worry about the austerity to show. "First let me explain the vision and the scene. Then see what you can do with it."

Miranda returned to find Nigel worrying at his thumbnail, standing with an object of some questionable origins at his feet, between his legs. She approached him, coffee cup in hand, without looking in the direction he was. She wasn't quite ready to face the travesty and, truthfully, was heartbeats away from striking the whole idea down and starting fresh. "Progress?"

He leaned over, and pivoted at the waist slightly so he was facing more toward his friend. "Some. We're trying an interpreter."

"Novel. Whose idea?"

"Well, Theresa found the woman while trying to get the coffee and, I guess, brought her along, after. I saw an opportunity and asked the interpreter to try. I figured, what's the harm. It can't go any worse."

Miranda's lips twitched into an amused smirk. "This is why I keep you around Nigel. That and our long standing friendship." One which they had worked very hard to restore after certain events. It had been worth it. She started to turn around to look, but then the artist turned more completely, dragging the pack around with him. She looked down at his feet and took a sip of her coffee, feeling much soothed by the familiar heat. "What is that?"

"Oh. That's the interpreter's pack. I promised I'd watch it for her while..."

"But aren't you supposed to be over there?" Miranda pointed in the direction of the photographer.

"Eventually," Nigel admitted, loathe to move.

"Give it here."

"What?"

Miranda nodded at the pack. "I will watch it or have Theresa do it."

"Oh. Right. Uhm. The thing is I promised..." he said as he bent down and lifted the bag.

"Yes?"

"... to make sure it gets back to her. It has... everything..." Nigel cast a glance towards the set. His eyes widened as he saw Andy, who up to that point had been talking in animated, but mostly quiet, amiability with the porters, march toward the model who had been causing the problems. The model, a handsome dark haired young man was chatting with one of the female models and was unaware of Andy's presence. Right up until the back of his head was slapped. Nigel, bag in hand forgot he was supposed to be keeping Miranda's attention.

What followed was a breathtaking, attention grabbing, multilingual tirade, which involved finger shaking, finger pointing, the grabbing of an ear and steering by it, until the model was positioned at the mark. The model grew more and more sheepish as the harangue closed in on a finish. Then Andy started in on the other models, clapping her hands together and practically stampeding them all where they were supposed to go, with a few declarations in her accented English similar to, "I've seen more passion on cows' faces!" Somehow she made even that sound sexy.

Meanwhile, the epithets hung onto the comments were in a variety of languages. By the time she was done, people who had been lounging were suddenly in a flurry of activity. She stepped back and flung one more finger point and declarative at the suddenly attentive and ready to work male model. Then she waved the porters over. They, with smiles and grins, joined the scene.

The bag was liberated from his hand. He started to look at Miranda, but was stopped by a gentle push. "Don't lose the moment. She has them where we want them. Go. Go quickly Nigel!"

He didn't need to be told twice and, with a sudden vision, grabbed Andy on the way, taking her in the opposite direction from the editor. "How did you do that? Wait. I'm not sure I want to know." He said as he dragged the brunette along until they were behind the photographer's station. "What I meant to say," he said as pushed her forward a little, "...was, brilliant job! Now, stick around and if you don't mind, interpret for us some more?"

Andy said, "Well, my stop isn't until later..." and her thought was, and I was going to be up anyway... "And I know his Mama. Actually, I know most of his family and him too. I met them while they were on holiday and they practically adopted me. He's a horndog, but a good boy. When he's behaving. I told him I'd tell his mama he was fooling around at work. He shouldn't give you any more trouble."

Nigel grinned at her. "You'll have to tell me about that holiday sometime." Then more seriously, he leaned over, "Don't look. Miranda knows you're here. Couldn't quite avoid it, given the..." He waved at models.

"It's okay, Nigel. I figured it might be inevitable. My pack?"

"She said she'd take care of it or make Theresa do it."

"Nige..."

"You know it's safe."

"That's not what I'm worried about. At least, not now."

"I'll make sure you get a stipend for helping us out. Don't worry," he patted her shoulder. "It'll all work out."

Andy felt the hairs on her neck stand up and knew, without looking, that Miranda was approaching. The shoot had been going much more smoothly, at least, according to Nigel, and the writer had done her part to help things along by passing on the instructions. The porters had long since been freed from their impromptu performance, so they could go work where they were supposed to. Now it was all on the photographer, the models and their editors and they were mostly done,and the session was drawing to a close. Miranda had intervened only a few times, sending Theresa as her go-between for message delivery.

The writer had decided, once she realized she was committed to this life event, to own and enjoy it. After all, as Nigel so wisely observed, she was not actually under the heel of employment. She was there merely as a friend. Thus she acted as one, chatting with Nigel some, flirting with the models and the photographer and Miranda's assistant; while at the same time providing the help that Nigel had so desperately needed.

She was very careful, however, not to break the bubble of imaginary space; the one she visualized as a protective barrier between herself and the editor-in-chief. If Miranda wanted her presence, Andy knew she would be summoned. As she had not been... well, it hurt a little, but Andy did not let it show; not for a moment or a second.

She smiled through the shoot, as if it were her element. After all, she had learned to make any situation hers. Anyone observing might have thought she was one of the people in charge, except for maybe the clothes. And even then...

A familiar scent, one that had filled her dreams for the longest time, floated from behind her and she felt a warmth at her back, not quite touching. Not that there had to be touching. The skin on Andy's body lifted with heated and sudden awareness, bringing with it a jolting understanding that she was not, nor had she ever been, over Miranda.

"I believe this is yours." The cadence was neutral, the words spoken in that soft tone that Andy had known so well. What caused the brunette to shiver was how close the sound was to her ear. Close enough that...

She turned around, not too fast, and the air whispered between them. She looked into eyes the color of a sparkling blue sky after rain. She was peripherally aware of the whole; perfect skin, a cloud of white hair, with a signature s-lock, lips that looked soft and close enough to kiss. And memories; of decisions made and no take backs. In this one case, she wished she could. "Miranda," she husked and the name was flavored like coffee, rich and deep, and exotic. The older woman's pupils dilated in immediate reaction, but her expression remained one of distant interest.

"So glad you remember me. Andrea."

If it had been a few years sooner, Andy would have come undone by those simple words, but not all her travels had been holidays. She had seen things that had tempered her, steeled her in ways that still had her waking now and then in a cold sweat. She had seen worse, experienced worse, than Miranda. She had the scars to prove it.

Andy reached for her pack, with both hands. She liberated with one, then, before Miranda could escape, grasped the editor's hand with the other, for just long enough. "How could I forget?" Then speaking with warm, gentle fluidity, in a language that allowed her to say exactly how she felt without too much fear of being understood by anyone else in the car, she exclaimed Miranda's memorability and beauty. She squeezed the older woman's hand in hers, tempted beyond all reasonableness to kiss the knuckles, but she tramped down on that impulse. They had never been intimate and it wasn't a liberty she felt free to take. Theirs had been a professional relationship, though towards the end, there had been a shimmer of nascent possibility, which had been squashed by events in Paris. But there was a social nicety that she could enact, one fitting to her well-traveled self. She kissed Miranda's cheek, one side and then the other, letting her lips touch in brief hallelujah. Andy withdrew and concluded her soft praise in English. "It's good to see you."

She waited for the viper's sting and fully expected it and in some ways willed it, given that their parting had been so abrupt, so cold on her part. Time had given her the understanding that her younger years had not had. Even with the back-handed compliment of Miranda's referral, Andy had known that was a one-time niceness. Yet, she still hadn't let go of the other woman's cooler hand. It warmed in hers.

Miranda went very still, and Andy had to suppress yet another expression of surprise, as she felt her fingers gripped and held and then let go. "And you," the editor said. She looked as if she might say more than, her expression changed, as if she were waiting to see what the younger woman might do next.

Andy felt an odd loosening in her chest, which threatened her composure. She stepped back and lifted her pack, knew by its weight that it had been untouched. Even then, she realized that there were elements of trust that she held for Miranda. That surprised her a little, on first thought, then not at all upon the second. "Thank you for guarding this for me." Before Miranda could reply, she turned. "Nigel?" The artist, who had been discussing content on a digital camera with the photographer, turned to see Andy and Miranda standing not so far from one another. His eyebrows rose and before he could say anything, which might ruin the moment, Andy asked, "Do you need me for anything else?"

Naturally he looked toward Miranda, which caused Andy to also look. The editor glanced around at the staff who were breaking down the set and the models who were finding their own clothes to wear. Miranda waved negligently. "I think we're done here."

"Okay," Andy said easily, and she lifted her pack and looped it over a shoulder. She turned toward the door that would take her back to her section and started to walk.

Andy found an empty seat, and felt lucky that it was by a window, again. It meant she could watch the sunset. She was not jaded about the beautiful things in life, and watching the sun drop as the scenery passed by could be a very soul filling experience.

At the moment, she needed her soul filled, as a fresh emptiness threatened.

Not that she could fault the outcomes. Things had gone much better than she had any right to expect. Habit had her check her pack once she was seated, and true to form, all that was hers was there and nothing that was not hers was there. Which was as it should be and she expected no less of Miranda; who had not shrived her in front of her minions, nor delivered a killing glance or verbal knife in the gut. In fact, she had been, for her, extremely generous.

Fixing things to her liking, but not ready to take up the book again, Andy turned towards the window, plunked her elbow on the armrest and her chin in her hand and watched part of the world go by at excessive speeds.

Time passed by and the colors of the sky turned royal, peaches to purples and then finally a deep, spacious dark blue.

She heard the snick of doors to the back, did not turn to look.

"Is the window very interesting?"

Andy went very still and then, turned and gazed up at the person standing in the aisle. The light in the car shone from the back, creating a halo effect over a perfect form. Andy's tongue felt a little thick, but she managed an answer, "Sunset."

Miranda cocked her head. "I was told by my assistant you would be here." The editor glanced around the compartment, taking it all in in a few seconds. "May I sit?"

Andy sat up and scooted over some, though really there was plenty of room. "Please."

As always, Miranda was the picture of perfect elegance and slid into the seat with beautiful aplomb. She sat back, crossed her ankles and then turned toward Andy.

The younger woman adjusted her position, so she could face the other woman. She wasn't sure what to expect, but she imagined that Miranda had something to say.

The editor offered no words to start, instead she looked at Andy; really looked at her, letting her gaze wander from head to foot in a long, slow assessing perusal. Her expression was stern, but not cold.

It wasn't seduction. It wasn't tease.

It wasn't judgement.

Andy felt herself holding still, as if she were a model and Miranda were a painter.

She caught her breath when Miranda leaned forward, extending a hand, and then, with deft fingers from years of practice in dressing and undressing models, undid the top buttons of Andy's shirt. Brown eyes, ambered by the light, widened. Especially when she felt the very lightest brush of fingertips against her skin, following usually hidden tracks and grooves.

Andy wanted to draw away then, felt the careful armor of international confidence dissolving faster than candy in acid. But she could not.

Miranda said, her voice even quieter than usual, "I had an interesting conversation with Tony. He wanted to apologize after you left and to tell me a few things. Rather brave of him, considering." Alarm bells rang through Andy's mind and she felt her ears turning a dangerous red. The editor's fingertips trailed up and over her shoulder, just under the collar of the younger woman's shirt, following one long upraised line as if it were a road, put there just for her. "He said that his mother is a doctor, which was of note, but not the part that caught my attention." Fingertips trailed up then, following the line up the back of Andy's neck. The brunette forced herself not to pant, not to panic. "He said they met this girl, one summer, after a bomb went off at a hotel during a wedding celebration. That this young woman had saved lives, but had suffered." Delicate fingers slid against the back of Andy's head, slid along still sensitive scar tissue under the hairline. "His mother had the girl stay with them at their home, to recover." Miranda's hand then drifted down, over Andy's shoulder, above the cloth, until her hand found the young woman's. She let her hand rest there, not quite holding, but managing to keep Andy in place by the lightest weight possible. "He said, he was embarrassed that you had caught him behaving badly, that you were his hero..."

Because the other woman's hand was finally still, and because she had become stronger willed, Andy finally found her tongue again. "Miranda," she began.

"Not finished."

Andy blinked.

"It seems that, despite some effort on my part, this particular girl, pops into conversation around my person. For instance, her mother called my office..." Andy's eyes widened "... after apparently receiving little help from the editors at the Mirror..." The brunette shifted, but Miranda clasped her hand now, "... because of a tiny grudge." Miranda clucked. "Delivering a broken nose while defending someone's honor. Then disappearing God knows where, after. Andrea, so cliche."

"I..."

"Not. Finished."

"The conversation between your mother and I was quite illuminating. She said you did manage to call now and then, but that it had been some time since she last actually saw you. I wasn't quite sure what she thought I could do about it, except that she seemed convinced... convinced, Andrea, that you had, despite volumes of complaints and outright whining, feelings for me. She said, it wasn't the amount of bitching you did, which apparently was a lot," there was another click of the tongue and the sparest hint of amusement. She continued, "Your mother said that was her first clue, but it was the amount of praise and defense, which then heaped upon her, when she dared to commiserate, which led her to arrive at a conclusion." Miranda leaned close, as if sharing a secret. "She said, 'a mother knows these things.' I've found that to be somewhat true with Caroline and Cassidy. So, I therefore had to take this into consideration. After all, your mother thinks that one of the reasons you haven't been back home, is because you've been avoiding me."

Andy was beginning to feel a bit like a rabbit being chased to a trap.

"I would have thought that ridiculous, except, as I recall, I saw you on an annoyingly regular basis after your dismissal from Runway and then, for some odd reason, I didn't."

"Dismissal!"

"Not. Finished. Andrea. If you don't mind?"

"Actually..."

"Good, then I shall continue." Miranda said firmly. "Regardless of shared motherly instincts..."

"Motherly!"

"Andrea."

The brunette used her other hand, waving it as if to move the conversation forward, which Miranda chose to take in the spirit offered. She continued, "I realized that there simply was no way I could justify dropping everything to go haring off on a random search." Andy blinked, trying to decide whether she needed to be hurt or not. "It helps, however, to have friends, even if they are mostly acquaintances. This is why it is important to network." Miranda sat back, relaxing some. Though her hand still captured Andy's. "It seems, Andrea, that your friend Doug is very loyal; a trait to be admired. He thinks the world of you. And, he is a talented accountant. I've been quite pleased with his services. It seems that you keep a little better contact with him, than with your mother, whom I must insist you call sometime this week."

"Oh. My. God."

Miranda, apparently, did not count that as an interruption. "I am not entirely Machiavellian. First, I did not expect you to actually be on this train. The shoot was something planned some time ago. You do know how our magazine operates, so you know this to be true. Nor did I expect our star model to be an acquaintance of yours, though, that does emphasize my previous point and you may be sure if I had discovered it at another time, I would have used the knowledge. I am a woman who usually gets what I want. My plans took into account the possibility that you might change your mind about directions. Theresa has worked hard to keep my appointments as flexible as possible. Though I do have a few solid bookings that I must attend. Irv found out about this little trip and wants me to play ambassador, you see. I hope you don't mind a diversion." Miranda's attention returned to Andy and the younger woman was caught in a steely azure gaze. "When was the last time you ate?"

Andy blinked and experienced a mental pause at the shift in the dialog.

"Nevermind. If you have to think that much, it's been too long."

"I'm not interested in motherly..." It was not a nonsequitor. Merely non-sequential.

"My intentions, Andrea..." Miranda moved forward, very close, "... are far from it."

"Oh," Andy whispered. Their lips were mere centimeters apart, not even really a need to lean much on her part. It was like falling.

And lightening striking.

Chapter Text

TDWP: On a Train pt 2

Andy could have been lost in that kiss forever. In fact, she wanted to be, but inevitably, it had to end. If only so they could breathe.

"I do not plan on spending the rest of the night here," Miranda said, with a slight hint of breathlessness. She pulled away, and while Andy was still blinking at the need to return to reality, exited into the aisle. She cocked a brow at Andy. "Well?"

It took a few seconds for Andy to process the query as an invitation. But once she managed the feat, she did not deliberate. She gathered her meager belongings and was soon trailing after Miranda. This time she didn't even have to pretend to rush. The other woman was apparently in no hurry and it gave Andy plenty of time to contemplate what she was seeing; the sway of hips, the roll of the shoulder, the confident steps. Miranda only turned to look once, just as she was about to pass through the door to the other car. Andy knew she was caught as soon as she saw the smirk cross otherwise serene features.

Andy realized she was going to have to push out of this Miranda haze if she wanted to swim in the deeper waters. She had no idea what the other woman was really offering. She might have imagined the connection during the kiss. She might be wishfully thinking and she thought, had hoped, that she had learned better.

The brunette kept walking, but spared a moment to literally shake herself, forcing her body to take on the cocky stroll and lean back into the who that she had become.

Miranda paused in the middle dining car, then commandeered an empty booth. When Andy hesitated, she crooked a finger, and pointed to the seat on the other side of the table. The younger woman slid into the seat, sliding the pack between her feet protectively. As if waiting for that very moment, a waiter appeared and slid menus into their hands. Miranda set her menu down. "Andrea, you may order for both of us when ready."

"Give us a moment?" Andy requested and then she began to peruse the menu in earnest. When finished, she glanced up, noting that Miranda was looking at her again; watching her. "Wine?"

"Please."

Andy nodded and looked back down, making and discarding choices in quick succession until she had narrowed down something she thought they might enjoy. She signaled the waiter and made the order.

She half expected Miranda to be surprised, but the other woman appeared unphased by Andy's confidence. In fact, she seemed more relaxed. When the waiter excused himself to place the order, Miranda said, "Tell me a little about your travels. What have you seen lately?"

It was a topic that Andy excelled at sharing. She could even, usually, tailor her revelations to the person she was sharing it with. She also suspected that Miranda was trying to keep the dinner conversation to something lighter. So she began with something small and fun and let the telling evolve from there.

Miranda was also adept at conversation, something some people forgot to their peril, and just as easily as she'd pried the buttons loose, she pried out answers. Some of which, at any other time, Andy would never have given. The food and wine, however, had relaxed the writer; as had the company.

"Where were you planning on sleeping?"

Andrea offered a mild chuckle. "I wasn't. This is a quick overnight trip and I planned on other ways to occupy my time."

"Such as flirting with my assistant?"

"It had potential."

"And now?"

"She will rest with her virtue intact. I have something better to do. Maybe."

Miranda compressed her lips as if stifling a laugh. "I see. So, you waste no time."

"After..." Now Andrea shifted in her seat and took a longer swig of her wine. "... a certain event in my life, I found that many things were prioritized a little differently. I realized that my days were as numbered as anyone's and, that being the case, I faced a few facts about myself. Not all of them, mind you, but some." She looked at her plate, which was nearing empty. "Thank you for the lovely company, Miranda. I know it's probably been a longer day for you than I, so I..."

"Surely you're not going to be a coward now. I believe I made my intentions very clear. Are you so very opposed?"

"Truthfully?"

"Have I ever asked anything else of you?"

Andrea closed her eyes for a moment, exhaled and then reopened them so she could hold her gaze at the other woman. "I've worked very hard to simplify my life, to find peace in my path. The truth is, Miranda, that of all the people, all the things in my life, you have the greatest potential to change me forever or destroy me. According to a friend of mine, both possibilities are the same, because one is irrevocably restructured, becoming something new. Now, lest you think this is about desire, understand, I want you desperately. I have known that about myself since somewhere just after I put on the Chanel boots and realized that you saw me. From there, my feelings morphed, from outright crush... to..."

"... something more."

"One might say." Andrea acknowledged. "I used to spend time thinking about that last day. I thought, for the longest time, it was about being afraid to become what you were talking about; about becoming famous and the price one has to pay or about having to step over people to get what one wants or... a half a million other things. But none of them ever rang true in me. I mean, they fit, but they were just the excuse."

"You were running away."

"Which I think you knew. I mean, looking back, I realized that night with Christian was the same thing. Though, I admit, a part of me is still pissed off that you ignored me. If only because, at the time, I was your assistant and I had a job to do."

"I won't defend it. I had certain priorities."

"There's nothing to defend, Miranda. It's a non-directional gripe now. But then..."

"Mm."

"Anyhow, to answer your question, No, I am not so very opposed. I am so very terrified."

"Andrea..."

"Small redirection?"

"I suppose."

"What is your stake in this? Why even look for me? Intentions... are very nice, but the truth is, if it's just to satisfy some curiosity, I'm not sure my heart is up for it."

"Your heart!"

"Miranda, you are not and never will be, at least for me, a one night stand. I could not bear it. I would rather languish in the outer stratosphere of your friendship or enmity, if you feel like offering that much, than for a minute consider …"

"Andrea..."

"... that you would be in a position to think less of me..."

"Andrea..."

"... than you did when you called me fat."

"Andrea! Might you at least give me the chance to reply?"

The writer paused and lifted her hands in surrender.

"I would pay sums unimaginable to be able to say that my feelings for you started as soon as I saw you. I would move heaven and earth to be able to say that my attraction for you began as soon as you changed the way you dressed. Would that my eyes had been opened when you managed to procure a book that even I could not." Miranda kept her eyes on Andy and watched as the wounded animal roared in agony behind the younger woman's eyes. "Every day, I wondered what it was that brought you back. I deliberately pushed, like someone stirring an ant's nest and instead of stinging me with tiny bites or even just poor decisions, you simply worked around me and adapted. Even Emily had her limits, though she thought she hid them from me, but you, like the willow, seemed to bend with every tornado I sent your way. It was quite impossible. Maddening. And you thrived where others wilted. Do you know that of all my assistants, you were the only one... The only one, Andrea, who ever got my coffee exactly right. All the time. It was as if you were tuned to my frequency. After a certain point, all I could do was accept it." Miranda played a little with the napkin, then deliberately moved her hands so they were under the table, in her lap.

She continued to watch Andrea, who was now raptly focused, but no longer looked as if she might bolt any second. "I did, so you know, recognize your attractiveness. I remember, pausing, just to watch you move. Often. It took weeks before I realized that I was not looking at your clothes, but at the whole of you." Miranda exhaled, "But I was also married and your boss and older and a mother and a woman with a very specific reputation, one that took a long time to cultivate. I resigned myself to the facts and made the choice simply to nurture what relationship we did have - the professional one. I think, at the same time, you may also have arrived at a similar conclusion. Certainly the tone of our working together changed..."

"I have a comment, but I promise to let you finish."

"Alright."

"I didn't arrive at a similar conclusion. Or... maybe I did, in a round about way. I knew you were my boss. I had a boyfriend. My friends were already giving me grief for working too hard and my parents thought I'd fallen off the face of the earth. But I knew that the chance of anything... anything happening... well, I knew that the only way I would be able to reach out to you, and this is funny, because it was Emily who gave me the epiphany... The only way to reach out was to … love my job and you were my job. Not the magazine. I like Runway, but... that was your baby. Because it was your baby, I opted to take care of it when you needed me to. Or when you needed me to help out with your daughters. They were yours. So I... did. Sometimes, Miranda, against my better judgment. Please tell me they are doing their own homework now?"

The older woman barked a laugh, though her eyes were sparkling with suspicious moisture. Her reply, however, was even. "They are. They are. They were a bit terrible at that age."

"A bit. But not awful. They were good girls. I liked them. I just... knew to be careful with them; as they were your tiny hearts."

"Oh." It was a gasp, a tender wounding that expressed a profound moment of revelation. "That is a lovely description. I … I might have to steal it. May I?"

"Miranda." Andrea said slowly. "It's yours." The editor felt a raw thrill tingle along her skin. The way Andy had phrased that, had said it, held deeper connotations as to what was being offered. And the young woman wasn't finished. Her expression was completely serious. "Anything you want from me...if I have the power to give it...is yours."

Another might have said, "I don't know what to say." But Miranda picked up the thread, though her voice was perhaps a little less crisp. "The truth is, the point where I knew that my world had been altered forever, had been...irrevocably restructured... was in Paris; when I turned around and you were gone. Just... gone. And, even as I knew I would never breathe the same again, never have the perfect cup of coffee again," Miranda's lips twisted in irony, "I had to act as if the pieces of me that wanted to fold were still... solid and strong. So I went to work and smiled for the cameras and played for the audience like I always did. Because, that was my job. And I managed it, because I had been through tears before and I tried to tell myself that your actions were a betrayal. I almost convinced myself of it, but I knew, as if it were some instinct, that betrayal of that sort was something you were not capable of - at least not toward me. I knew then, what I had been blind to, what I had deliberately avoided seeing. You recall, I cried for the loss of Steven. But, what you do not know and no one else does, is that I wailed for the loss of you." Miranda's chuckle was broken, halved by the emotions behind it. "I had no idea. It was such a surprise."

Quiet lingered between them and then Andy said gently, "You said I was your greatest disappointment."

"Mm. Would you have rather I'd said, she broke my heart? One I wasn't aware was there to be broken?"

"Well. When you put it that way. It might not have read as well to my other ex-boss."

Again, Miranda chuckled. "Yes. Well. I suppose it remains true that I tend to strike out when hurt. You run. I bite. I'm not sure where the middle is."

"Well," Andy said slowly, "In some circumstances, I bite too."

"Do you?" there was a hint of a purr to Miranda's voice and it generated a gleam in brown eyes.

The brunette's offered a compressed smile, "I could demonstrate, if you'd like."

Wordlessly, instantly, Miranda scooted the chair back and stood. She moved around the table, and took Andy's hand, barely giving enough time for the younger woman to grab her belongings and also stand, before marching through the dining car toward the exit.

Andy was utterly unsurprised that Miranda was in one of the upper-class berths. No tiny bunk-like bed for her, no unshaded windows, and amenities that meant she never had to leave the cabin if she didn't want to. The brunette spotted the flatscreen on the opposite side of the bed. She also spotted the second door, which meant shower facilities. The colors were as rich as one might expect, burgundy and golds, pillows and a bed that had substance to them, blankets that were both warm and soft and room to stand or sit comfortably. It wasn't cramped by any means.

She thought perhaps Theresa might not have lucked out quite so well; though Nigel might have. Either way, she found herself standing and looking, because Miranda had finally let go of her hand and they'd come to a stop.

The truth was, the cabin was nice, but she'd been in gold standard cars before. She had better things to look at, and, once she determined a reasonably safe place to put her stuff, she put down that which she carried. Then she returned her attention to Miranda, who, apparently found her just as interesting.

Andy hesitated, suddenly struck by nerves which made her feel like an awkward adolescent. Or a woman who was about to reveal things that might boomerang and wound. "Miranda, I..." How did one express that she had almost no problem with revealing herself to anyone else in the world except for her soon to be lover? Shyness was a trait she thought she had overcome, but it had snuck up on her.

The older woman broke the small barrier of distance, until she was directly in front of Andy. She lifted her hands and, very gently cupped the younger woman's face. Eyes open, she leaned forward, and softly pressed her lips to the brunette's; first kissing without invasion, and then, as Andy gasped at the sweet song of electricity that sparked between them with mere touches, delving more deeply. The younger woman's eyes had also stayed open, until suddenly she surrendered, closing them because the sensations were too much, the power in Miranda's gaze too profound. She leaned.

Miranda's hands slid away from her face, without haste. Palms brushed just above Andy's chest. The writer's breath caught and her attention shifted.

"Eyes closed," whispered Miranda against her lips. "I need to see, but you and I know I have hurt you in the past by a mere glance. Let me, this once, not offend you; not when I least intend it."

"I..."

"Please. Andrea." The kiss dissolved with those words.

"Okay," Andy whispered. She resisted the urge to tighten her face or to draw away. She felt gentle pressure as buttons were unhooked, and her shirt untucked. The whisper of cloth being withdrawn brought mild coolness, which caused her already excited nipples to stiffen more. The brush of fingertips caused her skin to thrill, to yearn. She listened for the shock, having heard it many times, but there was nothing; no gasp, no whisper of "Oh," no demand to tell how it all happened. She only heard Miranda's even breathing, the soft sounds of her careful movements. Andy sensed the other woman walk around her and she listened with more than her ears, so she could let her body move with Miranda's unspoken directions and hints. Her arms were lifted and moved and the cloth drawn away and then her bra, was carefully unsnapped and also removed. Andy whimsically thought of times when models had been rushed through similar motions, but the gentleness set those thoughts quickly adrift. This was something utterly different.

She felt the palms of Miranda's hands now, press against parts of her back and side, reaching around back to the front to continue the search. She had known that small exploration previously only told a portion of the story and that there would be more. She might have secretly wished for darkness or even the heat of the moment or... something to distract Miranda. She resisted the sudden urge of tears. Touch hadn't hurt physically for a long time, and with others, she'd learned to show the marks on her body as battle proofs, a warrior's pride. But this was Miranda and she knew that the other woman was discovering the shades and hues of her transitioned skin and could only be seeing them quite differently. One might assume it would be through the eyes of a queen, whose kingdom demanded Apollonian perfection, but Andy knew better. Miranda saw with an artist's eyes and that held a healthy dose of the unpredictable.

The saving grace, Andy was once more made very aware of, had been the tremendous care she had received and the things she had learned along the way. Her skin was whole, soft to the touch, if a little more hilled and valleyed than in her previous incarnation. A lover had described some of the scars as being like spidery roads on a map, with islands of a variety of colors. In some ways, she looked like the world she had traveled. The brunette had seriously considered getting tattoos, but she had opted to wait, and learn this new self. It had been worth the wait, though she was still tempted now and then by the option of coloring her skin; only now, not to cover things up. Just to enhance the patterns she thought she sometimes saw.

Miranda, still standing at her back, pressed close and she felt the heat from her body, the delicate slide of the silk blouse. The woman's hands dropped, not abruptly. Andy felt the delicate press of nails score down her sleek abdomen. "Your arm, what happened?"

"I fell."

"Before or after the bomb?"

"Rock climbing. After."

"Any other injuries after?"

Andy laughed. "Many. Most of them not quite as scarring. I was shot once. I'd say it was a bad neighborhood, but really, it was just a bad time to be in that particular country."

"Does death tremble before you then?"

"I could never claim that. I tremble often enough. I drink socially, but really only minimally. At least I don't smoke."

"Yes, I can see how that would be too slow. Or perhaps it's only that such things never fill the empty spaces; not for long enough, that is." Andy felt her heart clench at the tone, which was very far from accusatory, and shivered as Miranda with a surgeon's precision peeled back a layer of her soul. Nimble fingers undid her belt and slid it out of the loops with one long tug.

"I could help?"

It was Andy who made the first gasp, as lips touched crook between neck and shoulder. Then in slow succession kisses were pressed against her spine, evenly spaced, until the last one, which was delivered in the center of her lower back. The answer was firm, but now her legs felt like Jello. "No." The younger woman's breath was still caught in her throat and she couldn't verbalize the response. She nodded.

She supposed she could have looked. She might have been tempted. Except, she was still trying to think past the sudden fierce pulses that fired in her heart and lower places and couldn't even fathom opening her eyes at that moment; not and remain standing.

Her boots were unlaced, tugged apart and she did end up helping a little, if only by balancing on one leg when needed. Socks next. Miranda's fingertips tickled and Andy wasn't sure if it were deliberate or not, but her toes curled anyway.

The touch drifted up, along the inside seam of worn denim. Andy's toes refused to uncurl and gripped to the carpet. Desire flushed her skin, heated her center at the slow, deliberate pressure. She had thought perhaps the touch would stop, tease just before arriving at the join of her hips and thighs, but no. She lifted on her toes as Miranda's hand cupped her and pressed.

One arm looped around her waist and she was pulled back against the woman. Her head naturally tilted back and she felt Miranda's lips draw another line from the slope of her shoulder to her ear. She turned her head then, unable to resist, and her lips were captured and claimed with a tender thoroughness that left her dizzy and breathless.

She felt the loss, when Miranda closed the kiss and moved away, but then her jeans were loosened and drawn down. She stepped out of them. She felt the drift of fingers along her calves, just behind her knee, her thighs. The touch stopped and traveled, following non-parallel or non-perpendicular lines and divots. Miranda found the bullet woundand her hands lingered where it punctured her thigh in a clean blow, without breaking bone or carving artery. Though that one had been close. She felt both of Miranda's hands wrap around her leg then, not quite encompassing, because she had spent time building muscle, gaining strength; but holding.

She felt then, the whisper of hair against her thigh, the press of the woman's forehead and she realized Miranda was leaning against her. The wetness on her thigh was salt and grief, and things that might not ever be spoken between them; or maybe only in the whisper of their hearts.

Andrea started to bend, reach down.

"No."

One syllable and it was the shakiest she had ever heard Miranda's voice be, and it stilled Andy like nothing else would have.

And for once, Miranda offered an explanation of sorts. "Not finished." As if drawing grace and strength from the humor, she added, "We must work on our timing again, Andrea. You've been jumping the gun."

Andy caught her breath. "I am... I am a little out of practice, Miranda."

"Not too much. The coffee, as usual, was perfect. That's how I knew..."

"Oh." Andy exhaled, "That actually makes a weird kind ofsense."

The edge of Andy's panties were grasped. Miranda's voice was much firmer, but the brunette could still hear the wound. "It makes perfect sense."

"Of course it does." Andy felt briefly as if, in that second, time was rendered moot between them; as if, though they were only now broaching the deep waters of romance and possibly more, they had actually been together long enough for her to say something so very close to "yes, dear." And mean it.

Her panties were off and gone, but Miranda stepped back then and she missed the warmth, which had traveled between them.

By that time she had straightened back up, was standing, not like some puppet, but a little more classically; hand on the hip, the other one down her side. She lifted her chin, only blind by temporary choice, but not reality, and reminded herself that despite the scores of the years, she was proud of the body she had. She was a survivor and a champion. Her lip curled up slightly at the thought that all she needed really was a sword and shield to make some of that a literal truth.

She heard movement, sensed Miranda pacing around her; could envision stormy blue eyes gone to ice gazing with feral intensity. The other woman took her time, walking around her, clockwise, three times, as if invoking the circle; touching her in seemingly random places, but each touch provoked visceral responses. Andy gave her the time, though her inner thighs had gone slick, and the need she had, the sheer hunger for Miranda, had only grown.

Miranda paused her short journey and Andy heard the soft sounds of clothes and shoes being removed. The younger woman's heart skipped a beat, as she realized what it meant. Miranda began to speak. "When I first learned I was going to have the twins, the doctor, who knew me well, warned me there would be scars from stretching and then from the Cesarean. She mentioned that nursing would change the shape of my breasts and affect a few other things. Armed with knowledge, I simply made sure I had the best doctor in the world and creams and sundries to help my skin stay elastic. As I grew in size, my husband of the time called the marks on my skin my tiger-stripes, because, the more they showed, the more passionate I seemed to get.

"Several years ago, when I was a much younger editor-in-chief, one of my assistants decided that I had lived long enough. She fired a pistol at me. Fortunately, she was a horrible shot. I have a scar, heart side, along my ribs. She couldn't even do the job of trying to finish me off properly; which only proved my point. Ineptness had been my sole critique about her. The gunshot apparently scared her enough to drop the weapon and she ended up shooting herself too. She was charged with assault and spent time in therapy. She no longer lives in New York."

Andy could practically see the eye-roll, even as she felt her stomach plummet in after-the-case fear. She reminded herself, had to, that Miranda was telling her this story. Her world wobbled and rattled in its tracks for a moment, even as the other woman continued on.

"One year I decided to visit a photo shoot in Alps. I decided that, in the spirit of adventure, I might try skiing. My leg was broken in three places. I remember looking at the bone and being amazed that this piece of me, which had been hidden, should be so very important." Miranda's snort, was very much like herself, elegant somehow. Andy envied the ability. "One might have thought I would have learned the lesson then and saved us both some heartache. And then there are the marks of age. Wrinkles that dig in with time, spots that seem to just randomly pick places to display, all the tiny scars that come with living anyhow. I stuck myself with a knife once, in the kitchen, while I was cooking. It left an inch thick puncture scar on by my elbow. Don't ask me how, it's one of my more embarrassing moments."

Andy felt Miranda move closer, relished the heat and the sense of her. Once again she felt her face taken between strong, firm hands. Their lips met and the fire, which had been settling, roared. Andy pushed into the kiss and wrapped her arms around Miranda. Her hands slid along supple skin and her body sang with the other woman's closeness.

The editor's hands slipped away from her face, and flowed across the slope of shoulders, until her arms were crossed behind Andy's neck in an age-old hold of passion. "You can open your eyes now," she said softly.

Andy grinned into the kiss, which was only growing sweeter and more rousing. "Okay." But her eyes remained closed.

Chapter Text

TDWP: On a Train pt 3

They found the bed together, in slow motion and without stumbling. Miranda sunk down upon it, dragging Andy with via powerful grip. It wasn't until they were both flat, slightly entangled with each other, that she loosed the younger woman, freed her enough that the Andy felt she might begin to explore.

She slowed the kiss and drew back, opened her eyes.

Miranda peered back at her through eyes slitted with passion, with an expression of serious concentration that caused a sultry smile to slowly cross Andy's face. "Hi." She reached and then grasped the older woman's hands, drew them up above her head as she clasped their hands together. She slid forward, brushing their bodies together, exulting in the sheer delight of it. "I owe you a demonstration."

"Oh thank god. For a moment, I thought you were going to indulge in small talk."

Andy's laugh blessed the kisses and nibbles she peppered along Miranda's jaw and neck and shoulder. "Small talk, Miranda, greases many wheels. It's the delivery that makes the difference. For instance..." Andy freed their hands and then pushed up, so their trunks were connected, but there was also a small distance between them. Then she leaned forward and whispered short set of phrases in Miranda's ears. It started with nothing serious to them at all, then the actual content changed. However, it was the tone and the fact she was speaking in tongues, which made it seem like words meant to sear the blood. As she spoke, Andy's tongue slid along Miranda's earlobe and she caught the lower part very lightly in her teeth; played with the earring and then set it free.

"Fine," Miranda husked. "I will make an allowance for you. Fortunately, the list is short."

"Is it?" Andy's lips followed the earlier path, only on the other side now.

"I do not include party talk. That is not small talk."

Andy paused and lifted her head. "It's not?"

"No. That is networking. It may be boring, but it's a necessary evil."

Andy grinned. "As opposed to an unnecessary one." Her gaze dropped and she stopped breathing for a moment.

"Andrea?"

The younger woman did not speak, but, as if the question restarted her capacity to think and breathe at the same time, she scooted back until she was looking down at Miranda's breasts. She sat up, unaware of the display she was making to her lover, or the subtle, hypnotic rocking brought by the motion of the train. Andy was completely captured in a vision.

It was the glee in her expression that caused Miranda's hair to stand in alert; and her nipples, and other, also interested regions. Andy bit her lower lip, drew it in as if she were making the hardest decision in her life; and then she brought her spread palms over those pebbled points and caressed them. Strong fingertips caressed pale striations and gathered together to curl around the coral nipple and lightly pinch. Miranda hissed with pleasure. "These. Are. Perfect." The last word was barely voluble. Brown eyes seemed to catch a new glow. She lowered her head over one side and laved her tongue where she was still tweaking. Miranda arched when Andy took her more fully into her mouth, when she began to draw the happy flesh in with a delirious moan. She captured a nipple with her teeth, bit slowly and pulled before releasing and then pressing in to suckle.

Miranda's fingertips dug into Andy's shoulders and the young woman hardly felt the sting. She lavished attention on one breast, then spread the love to the other. Her hands glided along Miranda's skin, gloried in the ability to touch at last. Her fingertips brushed along Miranda's sides, and then slowed.

Andy stopped her nuzzling and looked, noting the long, moonshaped scar. She drew down further and leaned, laying her lips upon the faded wound in tender benediction. "I'm glad she missed," Andy said. So very glad.

She tried to imagine a future without Miranda in it and failed just as miserably as always. It was always a less than. A reality without her in it was a painful imponderable, a loss so profound ….

"Andrea," Miranda's voice was exceedingly gentle and Andy realized that somehow they were both sitting up. Her leg was between the other woman's but she wasn't entirely aware of that. Miranda's arm wrapped around her waist, drew her close. "Where did you go?"

Devastated eyes turned their witness to Miranda. "Where you weren't," Andy whispered.

If there had been any doubt, any lingering fear in Miranda about Andy, it was washed away in that moment. She drew the younger woman in for another soul filling kiss. "We are both here, now, Andrea."

Andy reached down and grasped Miranda's hips. She drew her up, forward. Pressed her hips against the other woman, felt her slickness. "I turn you on."

"Yes."

"You turn me on," Andy's brows lifted comically, but the kisses she delivered were very, very serious and plundering.

"So it appears." The words were cool, but her tone was hot. Andy shivered as she felt Miranda deliberately rock against her, slide against her. The train switched and turned and they shifted with it, causing their centers to touch with unambiguous intimacy. Desire's sweet heat escalated in them. Andy rolled against Miranda, who reflected it back.

It started as slow cadence, but conversation was done and need bridged their timing, built it, while skin singing touches and fierce, fiery kisses stirred the song. Bodies pressed tightly together, they rocked and were rocked into exquisite syncopation, until everything was moving as one. The erotic spiral that was summoned, swirled in their blood, in their feral gazes, in their abandon.

Andy leaned whispered the truth in Miranda's ear; it didn't matter which language, it was conveyed. "I love you. I have loved you forever."

Miranda cried out, her body arced, strung tight and released. She clung to Andy, bloodied her with a piercing grip. Andy felt it not at all, as she was also thrown, poured out, cast into bliss.

They held to one another, throughout, pulsing with rolling waves of pleasure, which seemed to go on and on before finally slowing.

They stayed that way, holding to one another, for awhile and then, in unspoken agreement, they laid down together, on their sides and facing, much more entangled than before. A giddy warmth suffused them both and they looked at one another seriously, but benignly.

Miranda exhaled and brushed her fingers through Andy's hair, remembered it was not a competition. And she needed to say it, "I love you too, Andrea."

The younger woman shivered as her body responded automatically to the words. She grinned lightly, but her heart was full. "What you do to me..."

"And hope to do often." Miranda paused. "If you will allow it?"

"I don't think allowing has much to do with it."

"It has everything to do with it. You are a woman of independent nature. I won't dishonor that. Nor would I begrudge you, if this were all and you wanted to go." Miranda trembled.

Andy pressed her lips against Miranda's forehead and drew back. "Do you want me to go?"

Miranda was shocked at her own vehemence, at the hissed word, which she'd only intended as a one syllable response. "Never!"

Andy pulled her closer. "Good." She nuzzled her lover, luxuriated in the privilege. "Then I hope it happens often too."

"Then you'll... stay?"

"Yes. As long as I can go with you; wherever you go. Wherever you are; here or there..." Andy paused and made the leap "... or in the States. I promise to give you space, but I want to be with you."

"And I you." Miranda grinned and then put on her professional face. "So traveling is not a problem?"

"No."

"Will you attend conferences, attend functions, be willing to run errands?"

"All of the above."

"Will you interpret as needed?"

"If I know the language, absolutely."

Miranda's expression softened with amusement. "Do paparazzi bother you?"

"Not for days. Been awhile since I've leaped over tall buildings."

"Then this will be different for you. No death defying feats involved. I plan on being open about this relationship; I won't hide who you are to me."

"Are you sure?"

"It's the fashion industry, not Hollywood. We have every gender bending type of relationship falling out of every shoetree. Fashion thrives on diversity. Style makes it our own."

"That is a point."

"I am Editor-in-Chief for a reason."

Andy's grin was encompassing as she kissed Miranda lightly. "True." She pulled back. "Nigel offered to pay me."

"His budget. He can do what he wants, within reason. And you did save the shoot."

"Nigel's a good friend. He can keep the money for other things."

Miranda paused, carefully sifting what she knew versus what she did not, and then said, "As you wish." She reminded herself that she could find out what needed knowing, but she seriously doubted that Andy was destitute; merely not materialistic. She brushed hair away from Andy's face, and said, "One more thing..."

"Yes?" Andy kissed her again, this time letting it linger and grow, until they had to pull back breathlessly.

"I forgot what I was going to say."

Andy wrapped her arm around Miranda, pressing until she rolled onto her back. "Maybe you don't need to say anything?" Then she took the woman's hand and pressed it against her heart. "I think I heard what you had to say, right here."

Miranda pulled Andy down again, layered the kiss with all she could not articulate, but that desperately needed saying.

During the rest of the night the sound and the motion of the train carried them. The next morning, Andy missed her stop. She was sleeping in the arms of her beloved, safe and sound.

End

Inspiration:

What a Difference A Day Makes - Dinah Washington